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97 mercury needs rear struts at $350

We have 97 Merc Tracer with over 120,000 miles. Our guy says it needs struts, is this something we must do? If not done will it damage the car? Also, the transmission seems at times to be slipping when going from 1st to 2nd. We don’t want to put much money in to it, our guy said it’s not too bad, maybe a trans flush will help at $100. What do we do?

See how the transmission works out first. Wait at least a month, to see if the fluid exchange helped. I would hesitate to invest in the struts if you are unsure about rebuilding the trans. If you have to decide about a trans rebuild, or if you choose to spend the money, then the struts are a good no-brainer. If you are considering junking the car or not fixing the trans, the rear struts don’t need to be done.

DO NOT let anyone flush the transmission! Tell your mechanic he (or she) may drain the transmission fluid and refill with new fluid (the old fashioned way) ONLY. If he insists on flushing, go somewhere else.

Flushing can have a huge negative impact on high-mileage transmissions. At 120K miles, I wouldn’t do it. Drain and refill, YES, flush, NO.

As far as the struts go, $350 is not a bad price to pay for a pair of struts installed. Struts wear out, and need to be replaced eventually. They are a major suspension component, and they affect the handling characteristics of the car. This could be considered a safety issue.

Decide what you want to do about the transmission first. The struts are secondary.

You should know that there are Tracers out there with twice the mileage you report, still in daily service, so the car may be worth putting some money into. Maintenance and repair is almost always less expensive than a new car.

reset the computer by unhooking the battery negative connection during or after the transmission service.